Should I implement Lean?
Should I implement lean if I am a Contract Milker or Manager? I get this question a lot and my answer is absolutely YES. Lean is helping you and your team so it is going to be you that benefits from implementing the tools. It is you that is in the business on a daily basis dealing with issues, inefficiencies and day to day work. Lean helps you to work smarter not harder and this will save you time and frustration. Further much of what you do on one farm is also very transferable to your next farm so you can actually be developing a toolkit of management systems that you can take from one farm to another. Of course each farm has its unique features in terms of type of shed, cow numbers etc but the basic tasks you are doing will be the same and the same lean tools and systems can be applied. It will build your management capability and help you to create a well-run farm where ever you are much more quickly and effectively.
Lean is transferable
I have worked with hundreds of farms and the majority of problems are the same. The majority of processes needed are similar and the majority of information and metrics needed for a farm are also very similar. This means that any systems, standard processes or visual management systems you develop will all be able to be taken with you and used with perhaps some minor adjustments anywhere. They are completely transferable to any farm. Not being an owner should not stop you from going down this journey. It just might mean that you don’t spend money on anything that is very expensive and you can’t take with you. But if you invest a few dollars in a shadow board and get a years’ benefit from it, then its worth it. If you develop standard work documents or set up visual management boards, then you get benefit from it while you are with that farm business and you can take these with you to the next farm.
Get the owner on board with Lean
I also get asked what to do if you do want to get the owner on board. Perhaps you have identified opportunities that need some investment and you need the owner to see the value and be prepared to invest. This can be hard if the owner is not involved. However generally every owner of a business wants their farm to be successful and profitable. They naturally want to see less waste, less cost and better results. That is what lean will help you to achieve.
Giving the owner an overview of why you want to be lean, the benefits to them and their farm (people always need to see “what’s in it for them”) and helping to take their business to the next level will help to start to get them on board. It might be worth however getting an understanding of the owners own ambitions/ goals for their farm. If they are happy with the status quo and don’t care about any change it might be harder. If they do want to see improvement then you already have a foot in the door.
Showing them some of the benefits such as bringing them into your team meeting around your visual management board might also be a subtle way to show how lean is improving their farm. I also always recommend getting them a copy of my book The Lean Dairy Farm – this is a really neutral objective way to let them become aware of some of the tools and benefits and become comfortable. It is a great way to start the conversation.
Good luck it will be well worth it!